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Newsworthiness

by Marc Cowlin - CafePress PR Manager

Newsworthiness, and how it relates to a crafting a PR pitch is one of the most important things you'll learn in PR. On a basic level, newsworthiness refers to a story of enough significance to the public at large to warrant news coverage. There are MANY factors to determining if a story is newsworthy.

When working on a story you plan on pitching to the media it is imperative to think about the story from the point of view of a reporter, and their reading/viewing/listening audience. Ask yourself: What is it about my story that is newsworthy to this reporter? When you have this answer, and are confident that you have a well-crafted story you're ready to take the next step, pitching your story to the media.

There isn't one specific way to create or determine newsworthiness in a story, but the following factors offer a good place to start.

  • Proximity - For the most part people are interested in stories that affect them personally; they want to know what's happing in their own back yard. You have probably noticed your local nightly TV news usually starts with local stories, and then moves onto items of national and global significance. Example of how proximity can help make your story newsworthy: You are an artist in Foster City, California and you have just opened a store on CafePress selling merchandise featuring your paintings of the canal behind your house. You work on crafting a story about a "small entrepreneur and artist who finds a venue for their art online selling merchandise." The local paper is likely to be more interested than the New York Times because you are a local artist and your art is of local significance.
  • Impact - Does your story impact someone's life? Try to think about the impact and significance to the average reader.
  • Timeliness - People like current news, it's as simple as that. The only exception to this rule is if you are sharing information that updates a previous story. What's news today probably won't be news in a few days, so remember time is of the essence.
  • Prominence - The more well known a person involved in your story is, the more interesting it is as a news story. A great example of how this works is the recent hunting incident involving Dick Cheney. This story would not have been newsworthy if it involved John Doe accidentally shooting his friend while hunting.
  • Conflict or Controversy - This can refer to many types of conflict and controversy such as physical, moral, ethical, ideological, political, etc. Stories can involve one person, groups of people, or entire nations. Because these stories can be of a sensitive nature it is important to handle them with caution.
  • Uniqueness - An odd or truly unique story will most likely be newsworthy. A great example of a unique news story involves "Lewis the Cat." Lewis has been accused of attacking a few people and as a result was placed on house arrest while waiting for his day in court. The story wouldn't be terribly interesting if it involved "Lewis the Human" as there are often conflicts between people and house arrest is not uncommon for a human. However a cat is rarely placed under house arrest; therefore this is newsworthy based on uniqueness. Incidentally, Lewis has a CafePress shop to help pay for his mounting legal bills.
  • Human Interest - As people we are naturally interested in hearing about other people. It's interesting to us for many reasons. A Human Interest story can be tough to pitch to an editor if another of the above components isn't involved, but can turn into a great feature story if you find the right story angle and reporter.

Stories can be newsworthy based on one, a few, or all of the above. There are other factors to newsworthiness, but the above are the most common. Crafting a story for optimal newsworthiness can be fun and challenging at the same time. If you find that you can't craft your story so it seems newsworthy then you may want to rethink the story all together as it is unlikely to spark the interest of a reporter.

Try to take step back from the story you are about to pitch to a reporter and look at it through their eyes. Being close to your work can make this a difficult thing to do, so if you're having trouble removing yourself and being objective talk with family, friends, or colleagues. Ask them/yourself - If I were a reporter would I be interested in this story, and why? Answer this question and think about the factors of newsworthiness listed above and you're likely to craft a great story!


Next: The Story, the Release, and the Press Kit